Noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has more dismal news for the human race, warning that humanity has but about 1,000 years to spread out into the Solar System and space or risk extinction on planet Earth.
The Christian Science Monitor reported this week that Stephen Hawking, speaking at Oxford University Union, said that the best chance humanity had against extinction in the long run was to begin planning its expansion into outer space. He noted that the longer the human race remains Earthbound, the more likely it will succumb to factors leading to its ultimate demise, so colonizing near space and other worlds should become more of a priority and less of a futuristic novelty.
“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years,” he said. “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”
It should be noted that Hawking was not just throwing out numbers with regard to humankind’s time of extinction. It was revealed this week via the Inquisitr that mathematician Fergus Simpson of the University of Barcelona had calculated that humanity has a better than 0.2 percent — or one in 500 — chance of being wiped off the planet in a given year. Any year. But the math is founded on the overpopulation calculations of the “Doomsday Argument,” which attempts to predict the total future number of humans to be born based on the number that already has been born. Simpson’s calculations also indicated that humanity had at least another 700 years, according to the “longevity of historical civilizations” arc.
So overpopulation and climate change just might hold off eliminating the human race for up to a millennium at least. But Hawking has been insistent that the human race must leave the Earth behind or face assured extinction. According to the Daily Express, Stephen Hawking wrote in the afterword of the book How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by journalist Julian Guthrie, “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers.
“I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”
Hawking has also made it clear that humanity could also be in danger of extinction from advances in the field of artificial intelligence. Back in 2014, he co-wrote an article for The Independent where he pointed out that developing artificial intelligence was alluring, given that it could aid in the elimination of disease, war, and poverty. The authors added that the development could be the greatest achievement of mankind but could also be the last great achievement as well.
They wrote, “Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organized in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.”
And it could get worse, far worse.
“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”
But that may be the ultimate direction in which humanity is headed. And it may also be the way the human race expands outward into the universe. As the Inquisitr has reported, Seth Shostak of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute pointed out that, using humankind’s rapid technological progression towards full integration with artificial intelligence as a metric, alien beings may have already progressed to that point — which could be a major factor in not being able to detect them. This could mean that humanity might cease to exist as living organisms but would still expand away from Earth and into space.
Despite the heavy words of warning, Stephen Hawking left his audience with words of inspiration.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” Hawking said. “Try to make sense of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
And not giving up is his life’s story. The famous theoretical physicist has been fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative neuronal disease that affects voluntary muscles and is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, for most of his life. Diagnosed at the age of 21, he was told he had but two more years to live. In the more than 50 years since, he has become more and more paralyzed, become wheelchair-bound and lost the ability to verbally communicate. But in that time and with the help of technological aids, he has produced numerous written scientific papers and published over a dozen books. His work has altered the way the world views black holes, cosmology, and astrophysics. Stephen Hawking is now 74-years-old.
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